Author : Martin Berka

Captain Mu Wharton peered over the rocky outcropping, and was rewarded with humanity’s first glimpse of an alien species. Certainly, the Eurasian Union’s Mira 17 telescope had been the first to notice activity, but in terms of “first contact,” this was hopefully it.

It was fairly anticlimactic due to the fact that the individuals of interest were several kilometers distant. The suit had to triple its radiation representation spectrum before Wharton saw the faint shapes moving towards the human scout group, and signaled for the others to remain hidden while he and Lieutenant Damiana Zeitzev left cover.

The figures, four in all, stopped about 50 meters away. Several minutes passed, and Wharton was consulting his crew about approaching, when two more figures appeared in the distance behind the first group, carrying between them a featureless sphere, perhaps a meter in diameter. They rolled it across the uneven wasteland; hovered several centimeters above the ground, and stopped halfway between the two groups.

The floating sphere emitted a series of brief, low-intensity bursts on a variety of wavelengths, with slight variations, and kept this up for several minutes. Wharton concluded that if the aliens meant harm, they could already have done so, and radioed the five remaining party members to join him. The emissions from the sphere briefly intensified, and then settled into a gentle wave; Ensign Branislav Adani guessed that they represented some form of rapid scanning.

About fifteen minutes passed, during which the six aliens barely moved, and the humans experimented with flashing lights and sending radio messages. Suddenly, the sphere settled on the ground and extended a large screen towards the humans. It displayed the words “For English, wave 1 appendage. For Chinese, wave 2. For Russian, wave 3…” with each language represented in its own alphabet. Every language spoken by a human present, was listed. Glancing at the others for confirmation, the captain raised his right arm up in the nonexistent air.

Immediately, the screen was filled by a closeup of one of the aliens. It resembled a crocodile, assuming that crocodiles were six-legged, eight-armed cubes without facial features, and were in the habit of plugging wires into their chests. An unfamiliar voice appeared on the humans’ communications channel.

“That took a while. Still, you people are pretty normal, and the psych-bio profile’s done. We’ve finished refueling, so we’ve got to be on our way. Nice meeting you!”

The screen began to fold up, or perhaps melt, into the sphere, two of the aliens were already walking back toward their ship, and Wharton quickly broadcast a message in the visitors’ direction.

“Wait! We represent the six inhabited bodies of this solar system, and are honored to have the opportunity…”

“Oh, we’re your first?” the voice replied. “Okay. Our government will send you some representatives in a few orbits. In the meantime, work on filling out this application to the Spacefaring Nations Organization. It should be compatible with your tech. We’ll leave a relay here; the app will tell you how to send the data once everything’s filled out. We’d love to stay and chat, but corporate will be ticked if we don’t reach the Norma arm in a few days.”

The sphere spit out a small rectangle and flew after the aliens, who were already skittering away. The parting gift, reminiscent of the old memory cards, glided into Zeitzev’s hand. Wharton turned back to the select crew handpicked for the mission.

“The media will not be pleased.”

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